Before Dark Age of Camelot, I had
hit the massively multiplayer on-line role playing game (MMORPG) wall. Though I enjoy the
genre thoroughly, Id burned out on EQ when it became apparent that week-long camps
were a fact of gaming life at the higher levels (and I have a whole other non-gaming life
that requires some of my time). It didnt help my gaming ennui any when
two of this years much-anticipated MMORPGs--Anarchy Online and World War II
Onlinehad launches that can only be described as catastrophic. So when Mythic
released Dark Age of Camelot, an MMORPG of vast ambition and scope, we thought we were
just being realistic by expecting the worstserver crashes, bugs, loopholes, uneven
gameplay, lagyou name it. Remarkably, none of this has come to pass; in fact, Dark
Age of Camelot is very stable as a program and extremely enjoyable as a game. Its
shaken the MMORPG blues right outta me.
If youre familiar with
Everquest, youll feel right at home with Dark Age of Camelot. Many of the
games conventions are similar, and the differences between the games are much like
the differences between, say, Quake II and No One Lives Forever. Essentially, DAoC takes
the basic EQ model, addresses many of the issues EQ players have had with that game, adds
a workable PvP system, and offers up a deep and beautiful game world. It all adds up to
the best MMORPG experience out there right now.
game world is set in a time after the death of King Arthur, as three warring realms now
struggle for supremacy. Albion is the realm of Arthur. Its populated by humans, and
looks and feels a lot like medieval Englandeven the areas are named after famous
British landmarks, like Stonehenge and the Salisbury Plains. If you choose to create a
character in Albion, youll have a wide variety of classes to choose fromboth
warriors and casters. Midgard is a realm right out of Norse mythology, and is strewn with
pine forests and snowy mountains. In this realm your character can not only be a human,
also a kobold, dwarf, or trolls. Midgardians are fierce in hand-to-hand combat, and your
caster choices are very limited in this realm. Hibernia is the Celtic land of faerie and
magic, and character choices here include such races as Elves, Celts, Lurikeen and
Firbolgs. Magic is the coin of the realm here, and casters are a Hibernian specialty.
Its a tribute to the crew at Mythic that each of these realms looks, feels and plays
very differently from each other. The first time my Midgardian Dwarf Berserker
participated in an invasion of Hibernia, it felt strangeway too green and unearthly.
you can happily play DAoC without getting into realm-vs-realm combat, it is the real heart
of the game, and what sets it apart from other MMORPGs. As your character gains levels,
youll find yourself more and more drawn to your frontier areas to protect them from
invaders from the other realms, or to handy transport pads to invade their realms. RvR
combat is fast and furious, and it takes a good amount of teamwork to capture enemy
fortresses and relics. This makes being in a guild good for something besides group camps,
getting twinked by higher-level members, and power-leveling (which is near-impossible to
do in DAoC anyway.)
games graphics are excellent throughout. Player models are colorful and
well-animated, especially when performing special style attacks. Each realm has a wide
variety of great-looking and often unique monsters and NPCs, ranging from stuff like
innocuous-looking but deadly basilisks to awesome giants. Weather effects are nicely done,
and even events as mundane as sunrises and sunsets can be very beautiful. But the most
impressive graphics display occurs in the games spell effects, which are just
I suppose the best way to describe gameplay in DAoC is to note some of the ways it
improves upon gameplay in EQ. Let me count the ways, ten of em:
twinking. In DAoC, you cant wear armor thats not intended for a character of
your levelyou can stretch things a bit, but armor that cons red or purple to you
wont do you any good. To wear really cool stuff, youll usually have to get it
yourselfyou just cant count on higher level friends to give you ultra-cool
items. In the same vein, youre severely punished, exp-wise, if you group with
players much higher than you.
Questing. Thankfully, you can usually find very nice items by doing some of the many
quests available in the game. And the quests are much, much, saner than those in EQ. For
one thing, theyre doable in a reasonable amount of time, and since the MoBs in DAoC
spawn much faster than in EQ, you usually wont have to squabble with other players
over who gets to camp spawns.
Rational Death Penalty. Its no fun to die in DAoC, but at least you respawn at your
bind point with all your stuffno more naked suicide runs through MoB-infested
dungeons just to get your gear. You take a hit in experience (part of which can be
recouped by visiting a grave at your death site and praying) and on your constitution
(which can be restored by paying a healer), but this relatively light death penalty allows
you to take many more chances, especially since you never lose a level by dying. And since
most healers get resurrection at a very early level, you usually dont even have to
return to your bind point.
Combat. In EQ, hand-to-hand combat is a bit of a drag. You just sort of hit the attack
button once and hope for the best. In DAoC, you allocate skill points to gain special
style attacks for certain weapons. You can use these attacks in different circumstances in
combat (and so long as your stamina holds out), and it adds a whole new dimension to
5. More Spells. Lots of em, and you get new ones just about every time you level.
No more waiting several levels for your next rack of spells; here youre always
getting some cool new thing to do.
Down Time. Theres nothing worse than fighting a MoB, getting a little exp, and then
waiting for five minutes until you heal up enough to take on another. Youll still
have some down time in DAoC, but healing takes much less time and healing spells seem much
more powerful. Less down time=more time for fun.
Crafting. Well, its still beyond me why anyone would want to spend time learning to
tailor with all those monsters to be killed, but those who do have informed me that
its much easier to be come proficient in making armor and weapons in DAoC; Im
sure theres still a degree of tedium involved, but to a markedly lesser degree. And
since some types of very powerful armor and weapons must be crafted, theres always a
demand for items. You can make some money doing this.
Grouping. While you can solo happily in DAoC, Ive never seen a game that so strongly
encourages grouping. The interface includes a window that allows you to list yourself as
looking for a group, as well as allowing groups to list what classes theyre seeking.
The group window not only lists each member of your group, but also their health and spell
power status and whatever spells or buffs they have up at the time. Its also easy to
found and expand a guildthere are a lot of good ones in the game, and many of them
specialize in RvR.
Customizing your armor. I know, its petty, but I really like this. You can buy dyes
from merchants and color your armor in whatever scheme you like. This adds a very nice
dash of individuality to the game. No longer does every level 32 paladin look like they go
to same Catholic school.
Realm vs. Realm. Have I mentioned this before? Theres nothing like planning with
your guild, unlimbering some siege machinery, ambushing some unwary Hibernians in their
frontier, and taking an enemy fortress. Itll take a while to get to the level where
you can survive for an extended period of time (usually in the 20s), but its one of
the best gaming experiences Ive ever had.
its clear that Im very impressed with DAoC, it does have a few problems.
First, as with most MMORPGs, it gives barely enough information to get started.
Youll soon enough have questions that the skimpy manual cant answer. You can
of course get plenty of them by asking around in-game, which is probably the ostensible
motivation for this lack of instruction, but as with EQ youll soon find yourself
seeking out some of the excellent DAoC websites. Here are a few I find most helpful:
Camelot Warcry, Allakhazams, and Camelot Lore.
DAoC also has a notable paucity of dungeons, especially when compared to EQ, and
players will often find the few in their realm to be overcamped and crowded, especially
since rare loot often drops in them. More and bigger dungeons wouldnt hurt at all.
Overall, Dark Age of Camelot is the best and most fun MMORPG going. Its big,
its beautiful, its full of variety that encompasses many styles of gameplay.
Just when you think it might start getting old, you discover a new area or enemy or item
or style of play that breathes new life into it. Worth the ten or so bucks a month to
play? Oh yeah, worth that and more.